Have you heard? The digital obituary business is booming. Legacy.com gets more than 40 million unique visitors each month, with multiple streams of revenue coming in from news publications, business advertisers, and the bereaved.
If it’s been a while since you visited an obituary website, you’re in for a surprise. The days when obituaries were just a few short paragraphs of text have largely passed. In their place are elaborate landing pages, where mourners can post lengthy obituaries, along with videos, audio, and other interactive elements.
The modern obituary website often includes templates that families of the deceased can use to write meaningful obituaries, as well as integrated guest books where friends can post their condolences. Some websites, like Legacy.com, also help families publish obituaries in their local newspapers.
Let’s take a closer look at what publishers should know if they want to launch an obituary website.
Today’s obituaries are largely digital.
Obituaries are no longer exclusive to local print newspapers. Niche digital publishers often have obituary sections on their websites where they write about the passing of leaders in their industries. For example, Editor & Publisher, a journal covering all aspects of the newspaper industry, publishes obituaries of reporters, editors, and other respected members of its community. Underneath each obituary on Editor & Publisher’s website is a comments section, where friends and acquaintances of the deceased can leave their condolences.
The most successful obituary websites have multiple streams of revenue.
Most obituaries these days are written by family members, and mourners expect to pay to publish those obituaries on the web and in print. According to Adpay, which places obituaries in newspapers around the country, Americans spend around $500 million each year on newspaper obituaries. At The New York Times, a death notice costs $236 for the first four lines. Most print newspapers pay obituary websites, like Legacy.com, to post their death notices on the web. That’s one of the ways an obituary website can generate revenue.
Funeral homes are also purchasing packages in order to integrate relevant content from an obituary website onto their own websites and social media pages. For a closer look at what this means, check out Disrupt Media and FuneralOne, which have both launched multimedia websites for funeral homes.
A growing number of obituary publishers are adding e-commerce elements to their websites. For example, asking website visitors if they would like to send flowers or donate to the loved one’s favorite charity. The publisher then takes a small cut of each transaction.
Depending on the business model, a publisher with an obituary website might charge for publishing a longer obituary than what family members could fit into a print newspaper, or the publisher might offer an automated way to create landing pages for the deceased. Unlike in print newspapers, an obituary website offers mourners the chance to comment on obituaries and post their own pictures or videos. Some publishers make these services available for free at first, but then charge a nominal amount to keep the obituary open to the public once the first few months have passed.
Another option for the publisher of an obituary website is to charge readers to access archived content. This is turning into a more lucrative option as more people start researching family genealogy online.
One of the trickiest revenue streams to manage for an obituary website is display advertising. Yes, some obituary websites run display advertising alongside obituaries, but there’s a lot that can go wrong with this strategy. For that reason, display advertising is less common on obituary websites than on other forms of digital media.
Moderators take a heavy hand on obituary websites.
Although obituary websites like Legacy.com encourage reader contributions through online guest books, the company has a team of screeners who monitor comments to ensure nothing impolite gets through. Legacy.com, like most other obituary website publishers, has to be very careful about which comments get published, given the fragile state that many readers are in. Publishers should consider this requirement when they put together a plan for launching an obituary website.
If you’d like more information about how to cater to your readers and launch your own obituary website, reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.